Concerns about Kerry

A. J. Atchue

When the last issue of this newspaper was published in April, the presidential race was just getting started. John Kerry had been established as the Democratic nominee to challenge President Bush, and the advertising wars already started between the two. However, we had really yet to see the main focus of each respective campaign.

President Bush’s strategy soon became clear – tout his achievements in the War on Terrorism, project himself as a strong decisive leader in tough times, and push an image of Kerry as an indecisive flip-flopper on the issues. Since all of these points are true, it shouldn’t have been too hard, right?

Well, a few things got in the way. We saw the terrible Iraq prison abuse scandal take place, which Bush’s opponents relentlessly tried to use against him. Other events prohibiting Bush to gain much early traction included fierce and costly fighting in Iraq and the ability of the Kerry campaign to keep the heat on Bush over this issue – thus keeping the heat off Kerry on Iraq.

Which brings me to my next point, which is – what exactly is

Kerry’s position on Iraq? Let’s review the bidding. He voted for the war resolution in 2002, but has since said that he didn’t really vote for war – just for Bush to have the “authority” to go to war if X, Y, and Z were done first. However, that’s not what the resolution said. Political vote number one.

As Kerry dwindled in primary polls, he suddenly became antiwar and accused Bush of running the most “arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological” foreign policy in modern history. In the midst of this, Kerry voted against the $87 appropriations bill to fund the war that he voted for (or didn’t vote for) – political vote number two. Sensing a pattern here?

After winning the nomination, he tried to weasel out of that vote by explaining that he “actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” Nothing could sum up Kerry’s political career better than that statement.

Most recently, Bush challenged Kerry to say whether, knowing what we know now about weapons of mass destruction and what not, he would have still voted the way he did on the 2002 war resolution. Kerry replied yes, saying it’s the right “authority” for the president to have. So now he’s back to being on the pro-war side, maybe. Trying to figure out where Kerry stands on Iraq at any given time is like trying to guess a random number between one and ten.

Amidst all this wiggling and waffling by Kerry, Bush has remained firm in his resolve and confident in his actions. He correctly believes removing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, and he remains committed to the mission in Iraq and the overall War on Terror. As Bush said in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, “Even when we don’t agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.” Kerry could never make such a statement.

Meanwhile, a main centerpiece of Kerry’s campaign has been his tour of duty in the Vietnam War some 35 years ago. Correctly recognizing that this election is primarily about national security, Kerry figured that his Vietnam service would be a great showcase of his foreign policy credentials. The only problem is that once Kerry returned from the war, he proceeded to tell a Senate committee in 1971 that American soldiers in Vietnam had committed widespread atrocities, including rape, torture, and shooting randomly at civilians – he basically spit on all Vietnam vets and put troops still there in danger.

Naturally, veterans were angry at Kerry over this, and some have resurfaced as part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an independent organization which has produced a nasty set of ads criticizing Kerry for aspects of his service in Vietnam and his actions upon returning.

It is extremely uncomfortable to criticize a veteran for his military service, and I opposed those ads when they first came out. However, Kerry’s inexcusable conduct after returning home is fair game to be criticized, and it should be. After all, these veterans have a right to their say, and it was Kerry who made Vietnam a centerpiece of his campaign in the first place.

In the end, most voters probably don’t care about what happened 35 years ago in Vietnam. They care about how the candidates will lead us into the future. It thus becomes important to examine their past votes and actions while holding office, and try to detect a pattern. Voters will have to examine this and judge whether they trust the next four years to George Bush or John Kerry. It should be a very interesting seven weeks ahead.